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A 6,000-Year-Old Nobleman

The Burial Upon Discovery


The enormous shroud containing a skeleton in a kilt and sash, a long flint knife, and a pair of leather sandals, lay in the cave on top of a plaited mat. Next to this bundle were a bow and arrows, the walking stick, a straw basket, and a wooden bowl.

The skeleton, which had been placed in a flexed (fetal) position, was that of a male. He was relatively tall for that time (ca. 1.68 m) and, considering that the average life expectancy was less than 40, he was exceptionally old, having lived to the age of 45-50.

The sandals that were buried with him were superbly designed. No sandals of this type or quality have ever been found before. Footwear was rare in the early periods, and most sandals have not survived, owing to the high sensitivity of leather (even more so than textiles and wood) to climate. The left sandal shows greater signs of wear than the right one. Since the deceased broke his leg shortly before he died, he may have limped or dragged his left foot.
The long flint knife is unique. Nothing like it has ever been discovered in Israel or in neighboring lands. Knives of this type were generally used for harvesting grain, but certain indications (such as the knife's exceptional length and the lack of luster on the blade) suggest that this was a luxury item that was placed in the tomb as a sign of high rank.

The bow, made of olivewood, was intentionally broken into two, apparently as part of a rite known as "killing the bow," which symbolically marked the end of the bow's use and ensured that it would travel into the afterlife with its owner. At the end of the fourth millennium BCE, the bow and arrow were the principal military and hunting weapons. This bow is the oldest discovered to date in our region. Expertly crafted, it is among the primary indicators the nobleman's elevated social status.

The arrow fragments consist of foreshafts of olivewood and mainshafts made from local reeds. Neither the arrowheads nor the vanes (feathers) that would have been attached to the bows have survived.
The walking stick was made from a long willow branch. Many such sticks have come to light in ancient Egyptian tombs. Their inclusion in burials accords with the Egyptian belief that the passage into the hereafter was an actual journey, for which walking sticks would indeed be appropriate. Considering their similarity to scepters and staffs, the walking sticks were undoubtedly also status symbols.

The wooden bowl and straw basket held provisions for the deceased in the afterlife.

Reconstruction of the burial assemblage in the cave

למאגר התערוכות , מוזיאון ישראל | מוזיאון ישראל, ירושלים | כל הזכויות שמורות © מוזיאון ישראל, ירושלים 1995-
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